It is a shame that the Baltic blast has interrupted the National Hunt campaign, with the next chink of light on the horizon the surprisingly snow-less Ayr on Wednesday. It is not only a shame for trainers, owners, jockeys and all who ply their trade in the industry, but also to me as I was hitting form with some of my selections. Just as in cricket, I have found the notion of form to be as appropriate when it comes to assessing the likely outcome of races. Let’s hope the snow hasn’t frozen my brain as well as the turf.
With a sparsity of current punting opportunities, I have turned my eye again to the Cheltenham festival. When I previously recommended Coneygree for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, I stated that you shouldn’t even attempt to unravel a festival handicap before the five-day declarations stage. I was wrong.
At 12/1 with BetVictor for the Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase on the first day of the March jamboree, Carlito Brigante is a real gem of a bet. There are a couple of crucial points to make.
Firstly, BetVictor are offering a ‘non-runner, free bet’ concession whereby if Carlito Brigante did not line up in the race you will be credited a free bet of up to £50 on that day’s racing. Other firms are offering 12/1, and no doubt some will be offering ‘non-runner, no bet’ concessions shortly, but for now though this is a great offer.
Secondly, the last time he raced on these shores he was rated 140 over fences. That is the rating ceiling for this race, which was won by Hunt Ball last year off a mark of 142 – made possible by the rise in his rating after the weights had been published. Don’t expect to see Carlito Brigante before the festival as renowned festival shrewdie Gordon Elliott will have had this mapped out for ages.
He won the 2011 Coral Cup with consummate ease off a mark of 142. His attentions have been turned to fences this season, and he has jumped well on the whole. Clearly on his hurdling form he is well handicapped, but on his last run at the November Cheltenham meeting, when he chased home Dynaste and Unioniste, he is also strikingly well in on a chase mark of 140.
Finally and crucially, many of the market principles – Cantlow, Captain Conan, Module, Tap Night – are all rated above 140 so have little chance of actually getting in the race.
Should Carlito Brigante line up for the race then he will go off favourite, so 12/1 now makes great appeal. Should he not line up for any reason, you will get a free bet to the equivalent stake on that day’s racing. I see nothing not to recommend about this bet.
Recommendation: Carlito Brigante (Centenary Novices’ Chase) – 12/1 (Bet Victor)